In a matter of moments, 77 minutes of hard work went down the drain for Chivas USA.
With the score even 1-1 on Saturday night at The Home Depot Center, FC Dallas striker Carlos Ruiz collected a ball just outside the penalty area in the 78th minute and darted in. Chivas USA defender Ryan Suarez collided with Ruiz, both players went tumbling to the ground and Suarez nailed Chivas USA 'keeper Brad Guzan.
On the play, FC Dallas was awarded a penalty kick, Suarez was knocked out cold and Guzan sliced open his upper lip, a cut that required 10 stitches.
Seven minutes later, Ruiz slipped his spot kick past Guzan for the game-winning goal and Eddie Johnson added a stoppage-time insurance tally as Chivas USA fell 3-1. The Red-and-White remained winless on the season with two losses and a draw.
"You make one mistake, get a penalty kick and that's all she wrote," Chivas USA coach Thomas Rongen said. "The 3-1 score wasn't necessarily a reflection of how the game was played."
Before the penalty kick, Chivas USA had given up little. Ruiz and Johnson connected on a few plays but nothing came of them. On the first opportunity, Johnson tried in vain to reach a cross that was cleared by Chivas USA for a corner kick midway through the first half. Then, in the second half, Ruiz found some room on the right side of the penalty area but his long-range shot hit the side of the net.
Chivas USA turned the ball over often in the last half hour, but the defense still managed to stay intact until the penalty kick.
"We played well for 80 minutes and gave up the PK," Chivas USA defender Orlando Perez said. "That opened everything up. We were trying to get that goal back and they caught us with another one."
The play ruined an otherwise standout effort by Chivas USA. The only goal up to that point was a fluke 35-yard blast from Ronnie O'Brien. Ruiz and Johnson, perhaps the most talked-about duo in Major League Soccer, had little space in which to move around and were non-factors most of the match.
Ruiz had just two shots -- and none on goal -- in the run of play while Johnson sprayed most of his six shots wide.
"I still think we played a good game tonight," Perez said. "The first goal, what can you do? That was nice shot from outside but there was really nothing you could do there."
With Chivas USA so easily dispossessed in the second half, a goal was all but inevitable. FC Dallas was on a counterattack when Ruiz was brought down inside the penalty area. The second half was a marked change from the first half, which ended with a powerfully-struck header from Thiago Martins.
"We just came out flat and were never able to get into second or third gear," Rongen said. "Anytime you lose possession as easily as we did and get stretched with a team that Ruiz and Eddie Johnson and Ronnie O'Brien, who's a horse coming out of midfield, it becomes a long evening."
The defense might not have come out unscathed but Suarez escaped major injury after what Perez called a scary scene. After knocking Ruiz down inside the area, Suarez collided with Guzan and lay unconscious on the field.
The former Galaxy defender lay face down on the field with his arms to his side as the club's medical personnel rushed out to tend to him. He lay unconscious for five minutes and was carried off on a stretcher. A team spokesman said he first came to after his pregnant wife kissed him as he was taken off the field. Suarez's wife is expected to give birth any day now.
Suarez suffered a concussion and was taken to a local hospital for a CAT scan.
After Ruiz's goal, Chivas USA striker Isaac Romo came on for the final six minutes plus five minutes of stoppage time.
"Overall I thought we did pretty good. They have a strong team. They have three strong forwards who are pretty good. But I think we played well. We'll take this loss hopefully we'll learn from it," Romo said.
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.